THE closing of fish habitats in an effort to conserve Australian fisheries is to be lauded not disparaged.
A recent research article reported that Coral Trout in protected area of the Great Barrier Reef are reaching substantially larger sizes than those in non-protected areas.
It is well known that larger fish are considerably more fecund that small fish hence the recruitment of coral trout on the reef benefits from closed fish habitats.
In another example, lack of initial research allowed the decimation of the Orange Roughy.
The fishery for deep ocean Orange Roughy was discovered in the late 1970s and the landings peaked at 91,000 tonnes in 1990.
By 2010 landings plummeted to less than 10,000 tonnes.
Where have the Orange Roughies gone? We have eaten them. We've eaten nearly all of them.
Research, too late to have any useful effect, showed that Orange Roughies live for more than 100 (published max. 149, theoretical range 125 to 156) years, do not breed until they are 20 to 35-years-old (30cm long) and their fecundity is low (22,000 eggs per Kg body mass.)
The once abundant population of Bluefin Tuna is at the critical point nearing extinction, yet fishing continues and smaller fish are removed from the population to be reared and fattened in ocean cages before they can reproduce.
Oceanic and fisheries research is fraught with difficulty.
Close observation is rarely possible and sampling is an imprecise research tool.
Government scientific advisors are in fact responsible and cautious conservationists, hence I would encourage any government or authority to err on the side of caution and for fishermen to accept restrictions on the use or abuse of the oceanic resources.
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